Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009 Old Rag Signs

Old Rag Bear Sign/Scratching Post

Old Rag Fee Station Signs About Self Registration and No Pets

The No Pets sign is only applicable to the Old Rag Trails the other trails and fire roads that are accessed from this Nethers/Old Rag parking lot allow pets on a lead. The park service has a web-site page which details which trails do not allow pets. The vast majority of trails allow pets. The Ridge Trail has places where a dog would need to be lifted up or down the rocks. Local lore has it that some years ago a very small dog was attacked and carried off the summit rocks by a large bird.

Old Rag Trail Blaze With Number R3
Note 1: Some Ridge Trail blazes have R#s and some Saddle Trail Blazes have S#s.
Note 2: If you have to report an accident knowing the victims location relative to a nearby numbered blaze will help the responders know how to best respond.

PATC District Manager

Saturday, February 21, 2009 Summit From Weakley Hollow Fire Road In Late Afternoon

Mel Ellis your friendly PATC District Manager. More information about PATC trail maintenance volunteers can be found on

An old rock pile from the days before the park when much of the land was farmed and had meadows or orchards. A popular distraction for the long fire road portion of the hike is to make up reasons why these mounds were built. Among many other creative explanations I have heard snake hotels, burial mounds of (fill in the blank), remanents of a canceled CCC road project, Weakley Hollow bling, and remanents of a rock pile building contest. Of course there are as many more explanations as time, interest and creativity will allow.
Good day on the mountain. My L4L5 disc was talking to me so I did a low key day. Started late. It was the first time I got to meet Mel whose crew does miraculous work on Old Rag so I spent quite awhile chatting in the Old Rag upper lot. That had me starting up the fire road even later. Ambled up fire road. There were quite a few campers this weekend. A single tent party near PO Junction, a multi-tent party hidden near Old Rag Shelter and a single tent party out of sight at Byrd's Nest Shelter. All was well. Got to summit long after dark and turned around and did an up and back.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009 Old Rag Dogs


There was practically no ice with the exception of a couple of 10 foot patches on the Saddle Trail and the mud was not too bad. A big difference from last week when the Saddle trail had a half mile of tricky ice and the fire road above the fire road intersection (aka PO junction) had three inches of boot sucking mud.

The dog on the left is one of several Old Rag Dogs. They live down near the the lower Old Rag parking lot and love to walk the trail. They know their way home so you do not need to worry about them in that regard. They sometimes adopt groups of hikers probably based on an intuition about who might provide treats or maybe just because they like you. In the warmer weather there are various crevices up under boulders that they like to get into and take a nap. Some of them are extremely sound sleepers and often will appear dead. They most likely are fine so you need not worry about them. In the event that you can tell they are actually hurt they usually have their owners contact information on their collars. Last year when a lot of hikers expressed a lot of unneeded concern the Rangers persuaded their owners to keep them at home. I consider them old friends and always enjoy saying hi to them when we cross paths so I am hoping that they are not forced to stay home when the crowds return. That said, it is probably best for them to stay close to home.
Long hours at work found me needing to sleep in even longer than normal so I had an even later start than I normally like to. It was a great day with partially cloudy skies and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. After dark there were a few snow flurries for about an hour and then the skies cleared again. The moon did not rise until around midnight so I was long gone before it came up.
For those not used to the range of winter conditions on Old Rag you should be aware that these range from making the trail impassible - to passable but more dangerous - to very passable but far slower to negotiate - to clear and dry. Warm dry conditions can change to wintery blizzard conditions during the course of a day.
If you are starting in the afternoon it is good to bring a light. If you do not have a light and it becomes so dark that you can not see it is best to stay put on the trail and wait for help. Especially if you know that someone at home will alert the park when you do not make it home. If you are on the trail you probably only have to wait hours. Once alerted the searchers will cover trails and fire roads first. On the other hand if you; bushwhack off the trail, are out of earshot, and become non-ambulatory it could take days to find you. If you know you have misjudged and then meet other hikers ask if they have lights and if you can join them so as to be sure to get out. If I happen to see you late in the afternoon and I know you do not have a light I can often loan you a low cost light that you can leave at a designated spot for my retrieval once I get out.
Cell phones have either very spotty or no service on the mountain. In an emergency plan on someone needing to return to the Old Rag or White Oak Fee Station's emergency phones. If you are injured high on the mountain and are non-ambulatory expect up to six hours for first responders to show up from the time someone goes for help.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009 SUNNY, 60, MOONLIGHT, ICE, & MUD

Great day on the mountain. The temperatures were around 60 and skies clear even up until 10PM. The Ridge Trail had a little bit of ice but it was fairly easy to avoid. I got to the top of the rock scramble as it was getting dark. The moon was almost full and very bright. Hearing voices entering the rock scramble and seeing a periodic flash of light I decided to wait to make sure the party got through the scramble. With the very bright moonlight they made it with no problem. It turned out they were enjoying purposely doing a moonlit hike. The Saddle Trail was much icier and more trecherous than the Ridge Trail. Starting just below Byrds Nest Shelter you had to carefully pick your way from rock top to rock top for close to a half mile. As you got lower on the Ridge Trail and onto the segment of the Old Rag Fire Road between Old Rag Shelter and the fire roads' intersection you had to deal with deep squishy mud. Weakley Hollow Fire Road was fine though. Ambling through the rest of my hike a second party of moonlight hikers arrived in the upper lot just behind me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

February 1, 2009 Snow Disappears


I was still fighting a little bit of a virus so I only did an up and back to the Old Rag Shelter via the fire roads. What a difference a day makes. Both Saturday and Sunday were mostly clear and sunny but Saturday was in the thirties and Sunday got to almost sixty. The fire road in today's picture was completely covered in ice and snow the day before. Around 80 hikers on the mountain today. On my way out I arrived in the very dim moonlight at the upper lot at around 17:00. Four hikers who had just made it out on the Ridge Trail without lights reported that there were two other hikers behind them up on the icy Ridge Trail in the dark without lights. I went up the Ridge Trail and found the two hikers about a quarter mile up the trail coming down using the dim moonlight. I believe all the hikers without lights had been caught off guard by the time the slippery trail consumed. Even with the help of my light one of the hikers tripped on a rock resulting in a bad bone bruising just a few hundred feet from the parking lot.
OLD RAG can be significantly colder windier and icier than the coastal plains. When there is ice and snow on Old Rag's trails you are going to be slowed significantly from your normal hiking times. A slip that causes a minor injury may slow you down even more. If a slip causes a member of your party to be non-ambulatory and they are high on the mountain it may take ten to fifteen hours to get them out. Remember that time you left the cold windy summit quickly because your body was getting chilled from not moving vigorously. Imagine if you could not move vigourously for hours. Best to come prepared with lights and enough equipment in your group to keep someone warm if they become injuried. Some cell phones will work high on the mountain but almost none work when low on the mountain. The Old Rag lower lot's fee station has an emergency phone but it could take hours for someone to hike to the phone and hours more for first responders to get back to the victim. Temperatures and winds can change quickly on the mountain. Unlike during the warmer seasons a forced bivouac on the mountain with nothing but light clothing may prove lethal.

January 31, 2009 Snow and Ice

SATURDAY, January 31, 2009
Saturday, January 31, 2009 plenty of snow and ice on the fireroads and the trails. I was fighting a little bit of a virus so I only went up Fire Roads and Saddle Trail to just above CCC Stairs. Walked out in the dark under our headlamps with a very nice older couple who had done Old Rag many times but were caught off guard by how much the ice and snow slowed down their hike. When I arrived at 15:31 ten cars in the lower lot and 14 cars in the upper lot. When I left at around 20:00 both lots had about 4 cars. Hopefully they belonged to backcountry campers. Probably around 60 hikers on the mountain today.